Mount Bold Reservoir Reserve | Review

Walking along the dam wall at Mount Bold Reservoir – Review

After a moody spot to revel in while the weather cools? This amazing feat of engineering is one of Adelaide’s best-kept secrets.

by Carla Caruso

Editor’s note: Thursday, 4 June 2020 – Mount Bold Reservoir has reopened following completion of SA Water’s dam safety upgrade.

There’s a spooky scene in Stan’s Hobart-shot thriller, The Gloaming, at a colossal concrete dam.

Of the jaw-dropping scenery, co-director Greg McLean told the Sydney Morning Herald: “It doesn’t look like Australia … Tasmania has a different quality because of the nature of the weather system there, the different forests, and the different plants. It feels ancient and has a strange vibe to it.”

But you don’t have to go as far as Tassie for such a ‘Scandi noir’ type vibe. I also felt it when I visited the Mount Bold Reservoir recently, just 50 minutes’ drive from Adelaide’s CBD.

I was encouraged to head there after my younger sister mentioned finding the place magical as a kid. While I’d forgotten ever visiting, she had fond memories of walking along the reservoir’s swing bridge.

The hiking paths to the bridge were blocked off when I visited last month, with the kids – and it looked like they had been for some time. But the view from the dam wall is still amazing, if not a little trippy. (Those who have a fear of heights, beware!)

According to SA Water, Mount Bold is the largest reservoir in SA and surrounded by 5,500 ha of land. Situated about 40km south of Adelaide, it’s not directly connected to the water network. Instead, water from Mount Bold is released as required to maintain an adequate level at the Clarendon Weir, from where water is diverted to Happy Valley. Much of this water is used to supply parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges and also Adelaide. The reservoir has a capacity for 46.4 gigalitres; that’d fill a whopping 23,000 Olympic swimming pools.

According to the signage, the reservoir took six years to construct, between 1932 and 1938, at a cost of $1.1 million – a drop in the ocean today! A major reno was undertaken in 1964, raising the dam level by 6.4m to increase its capacity by 17,000 megalitres. The reservoir, spanning the Onkaparinga River system, is now considered a possible future site for a commercial mini-hydro generator.

Driving there, we also enjoyed spotting the Clarendon Weir, the Christmas Tree Farm at Chandlers Hill, and a few dairy farms along the way.

SA Water’s reservoir reserves are increasingly being opened to visitors to enjoy. Check out more here

Opening Hours:

Gates are open from 9am until 4pm daily, excluding Good Friday, Christmas Day, and fire ban days. It’s also shut during emergencies and ‘pre-release’ times when water’s released from the dam to prevent flooding.

What we like about Mt Bold’s reservoir:

  • The awe-inspiring view from the dam wall
  • The facilities, including car parking and toilets
  • The scenic drive
  • Finding a hidden gem in our own backyard

Things to consider:

  • Those who suffer acrophobia – and even those who don’t – may find the view from the dam wall a little daunting
  • Unfortunately, the hiking paths to the reservoir’s swing bridge have been blocked off. So, visiting the location is more of a photo opportunity than a sweat session.
  • We could totally envisage a hilltop café or bar here, but unfortunately, the idea remains a figment of our imaginations!

Coffee and food options nearby:

We stopped at Clarendon Bakery for some scrummy takeaway lunch along the way. (The sour cherry doughnuts are said to be particularly renowned.)

Location: 

Review by Carla Caruso

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See our Top Parks & Playgrounds Around Adelaide here.


For more information, please visit the SA Water website.

WhatMount Bold Reservoir Reserve

When:  Open 9am – 4pm daily (exclusions apply – see opening hours above)

Where:  Access is via Mount Bold Road, off Kangarilla Road, Dorset Vale

Who:  Everyone

All photos by Carla Caruso & James Elsby for Play & Go Adelaide 

At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.

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